The Global Mental Health Program


Global mental health education, scholarship, and advocacy for human rights are core missions for the George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. Our Global Mental Health Program is grounded in ethical commitments to further mental health and relieve suffering for those who live in low- and middle-income countries and zones of armed conflict, as well as for immigrants and refugees who live in our country. The centrality of global mental health in our department’s mission is also a product of our patient populations, faculty, and institutional resources in metropolitan Washington.

The Washington-metropolitan area is one of our nation's most multi-ethnic regions, with as many as 180 countries and 100 languages represented in District of Columbia and suburban Northern Virginia and Maryland public schools. Complementing this diversity, our full-time and clinical faculty include more than a dozen teachers, scholars, researchers, and clinicians who are internationally recognized for their expertise in cultural psychiatry, torture-survivor rehabilitation, treatment of traumatic stress disorders, ethnopharmacology, medical diplomacy, mental health response to disasters and human catastrophes, human rights advocacy, psychiatric evaluation of refugees seeking political asylum, and development of mental health services in low- and middle-income countries.

The GW Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences provides the psychiatric component of mental health services at Northern Virginia Family Services, whose multilingual psychosocial programs include the Program for Survivors of Torture and Severe Trauma. GW psychiatry residents study cultural psychiatry during PGY-II and PGY-III seminars, learn therapies for posttraumatic symptoms, treat patients in clinics for immigrants and refugees, and conduct asylum evaluations for political refugees in our Human Rights Clinic. A monthly Global Mental Health Seminar provides a setting in which residents and faculty discuss, critique, and form collaborations around their presentations of scholarly projects.

GW psychiatry residents have unique opportunities to participate in clinical research on the role of spirituality in mental health and coping with medical and psychiatric illnesses. GW psychiatry faculty collaborate regularly with the George Washington University Institute on Spirituality and Health (GWISH) in educational programs that assist physicians seeking to respond to spiritual needs of patients in their provision of health care. The GW psychiatry residency was a recipient of a 2002 Spirituality and Medicine Award and a 2006 Psychiatry Residency Curricular Award from the John Templeton Foundation.

Our Global Mental Health Track is designed for psychiatry residents who seek advanced levels of competencies for conducting psychiatric treatment in low- and middle-income countries or zones of armed conflict. The Global Mental Track provides dedicated training in each residency year. Residents are selected for the track based upon competencies in cultural psychiatry and commitment to an advanced level of clinical training and scholarship. Residents complete longitudinal training objectives over the course of residency, with a progression of additional didactic seminars and clinical supervisions in each residency year. These include:

  • Regular participation in a monthly Global Mental Health Seminar in which residents and faculty present research projects for discussion and critique;
  • Completion of a scholarly project that merits publication;
  • Advanced levels of expertise in psychiatric care for immigrants, refugees, and political torture survivors
  • Expertise about a selected ethnicity, country, or world region of interest;
  • Completion of clinical rotation in a low- or middle-income country or in a zone of armed conflict.

The GW Global Mental Health Program is the recipient of the 2016 Award for Creativity in Psychiatric Education from the American College of Psychiatrists. This award was given in recognition that the GW Global Mental Health Program had “matured into a national model for teaching global mental health in psychiatry residency education as a four-year curriculum of didactic seminars, supervised clinical training, research, and mental health and human rights advocacy, whose mission is to train psychiatry residents for practice in low- and middle-income countries, post-conflict settings, or immigrant, refugee, and torture-survivor communities in the U.S.”

Learn more:

  • Global Mental Health Residency Track
  • Research in Global Mental Health
  • Immigrant and Refugee Mental Health Training at Northern Virginia Mental Health Services
  • Medical Diplomacy, Political Psychology, and International Psychiatry
  • GW Human Rights Clinic
  • Clinical & Research Studies on the Role of Spirituality in Global Mental Health